Japanese Grammar

How to Express Desire: …たい, 欲しい, and …て欲しい

want to eat: 食べたい

Last time, you learned how to express judgments like “かんむずかしそうです (Kanji looks difficult),” and “かんむずかしいようです (It seems that Kanji is difficult).” Then, what if you would like to say that you want to learn Japanese? In this lesson, you will learn how to express your desire.

Explanation for the Usages of …たい, 欲しい, and …て欲しい

Table of Contents
…たい: To Want to Do
しい: To Want
…に…てしい: To Want Someone to Do Something

In English, you have a useful word: “to want.” By using that, you can express three types of desire, e.g. “I want a textbook,” “I want to study,” and “I want you to study.” In Japanese, you have to use two words to express them.

…たい: To Want to Do

[わたしは / が] かん べんきょうしたい(です)
[Topic / Subject] Direct Object Verb + たい
[I] want to study Kanji.

You can consider …たい is the equivalent to “to want to do” in English. The conjugation is simple. You can utilize the polite form and attach たい instead of ます. The たい-form will actually work as an i-adjective. Please don’t follow the conjugation for verbs when you make the polite form and the negative form of the たい-form.

[I] want to take a taxi.
学校がっこうきたく(ない / ありません)。
[I] don’t want to go to school.
[I] wanted to see a movie made by Ghibli.
さいべたく(なかった / ありませんでした)。
As for vegetables, [I] didn’t want to eat [it].

You cannot express another person’s desire because you cannot know exactly how other people feel. You need to utilize some expressions like the following.

=> Unnatural!
Bob looks like that he wants to study kanji.
It seems that Bob wants to study kanji.

Advanced Topic: を (Direct Object) VS. が (Object of Emotion)

[I] want to study kanji.
[I] want to study kanji.

When the particle を points out direct objects, you can replace it with the particle が. The meanings are the same, but there are some cases where you need to use a particular particle. Be careful; if the particle を has a different function, the replacement doesn’t work. For example, with this sentence: 公園こうえんあるきたいです (I want to walk at the park), the を points out locations to pass.

You Use が When Choosing Something from Options
As for today, [I] want to play basketball.
[I] want to read manga (*when there are other books).

This is because the particle が has the function to identify something. When you choose something from options, the particle が is more suitable.

You Use が When Doing Routine Actions
[I] want to eat a meal.
[I] want to drink beer.

You should just memorize this case without logic. When you want to do routine actions, the particle が should be used.

You Use を When There’re Multiple Conjugations, e.g. ている + たい
[I] want to be eating a meal forever.
[I] always want to drink beer.
You Use を When There’re Other Elements between the を Part and the Verb
[I] want to eat a lot of meals.
[I] want to drink beer with my family.

The particle を is chosen even if the verbs are related routine actions. You can consider that the rules for the particle を are the prior.


しい: To Want

[わたしは / が] しょ しい(です)
[Topic / Subject] Object of Emotion Predicate (I-adjective)
[I] want a dictionary.

You can consider 欲しい is the equivalent to “to want” in English. However, here is an important fact. 欲しい is an i-adjective. Therefore, you have to follow the conjugation rule of i-adjectives. As you learned above, when you express another person’s desire, you have to utilize some expressions such as そうだ and ようだ. In this context, you cannot use the particle を.

[I] want a car.
さけしく(ない / ありません)。
As for alcohol, [I] don’t want [it].
[I] wanted a bicycle.
バイクはしく(なかった / ありませんでした)。
As for bikes, [I] didn’t want [it].

…に…てしい: To Want Someone to Do Something

[わたしは / が] ども もっと べんきょうしてしい(です)
[Topic / Subject] Doer Adverb Verb + て欲しい
[I] want [my] child to study more.

You can consider that …に…て欲しい is the equivalent to “to want someone to do something.” Doers should be expressed by the particle に, like in causative sentences. The conjugation is simple. First, you make the te-form and attach 欲しい.

[I] want [my] husband to eat vegetables.
As for yesterday, [I] wanted [you] to come early.
タバコをってしく(ない / ありません)。
[I] don’t want [you] to smoke.
どもには携帯けいたいってしく(ない / ありません)。
As for [my] child, [I] don’t want [him] to have a cellphone.

If you use もらう + たい instead of 欲しい, you can express your desire in a more polite way like “would like someone to do something.” This can be used to make a request.

タバコをってもらいたく(ない / ありません)。
どもには携帯けいたいってもらいたく(ない / ありません)。


  1. …たい expresses “to want to do.”
  2. 欲しい expresses “to want.”
  3. …に…て欲しい expresses “to want someone to do something.”
  4. 欲しい is i-adjectives and …たい conjugates like i-adjectives.
  5. You cannot directly express other people’s desire.

This topic shouldn’t be too complicated because you already know how the te-form and i-adjectives conjugate. The advanced topic about を VS. が might be difficult, in which case you can keep it aside. Just pay attention to which function the particle を works as. If it’s direct objects, your Japanese will at least make sense with either the particle を or が. Next, you will learn how to express volition.

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